Junior Jamal Washington was one of the Greyhounds key reserves this season. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Dave Wagner
From four wins in his first season to the first NCAA Division II tournament bid in 11 years, the Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball program has made steady progress under fourth-year coach Shawn Scanlan.
The Hounds (21-9) repeated as Lone Star Conference South champions this season and made the South Central Regional Tournament, only to be bounced out by eventual champion Northwest Missouri State in the first round.
“The one thing I’ve got to say about our year is that the regular-season accomplishment was very special,” Scanlan said this week from Hutchinson, Kan., where he was scouting the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament. “It’s hard to be a champion in the Lone Star once, and it’s that much more difficult to do it back-to-back. That’s something these guys need to be proud of.”
The postseason was tougher on the Hounds — a nine-point loss at home to Southwestern Oklahoma in the first round of the LSC tournament, and the 77-57 setback to Northwest on Saturday in which the Hounds took themselves out of the game with 15 first-half turnovers.
“The postseason was a disappointment because we knew when we left the floor we didn’t play the way we should have,” Scanlan said. “We played awfully hard; we just didn’t play very well.”
Six of their top nine players return next season.
With teams playing a lot of zone against Eastern, recruiting another shooter to go with juniors Kennis Green and Jamal Washington is a priority — right behind point guard.
“That’s the most glaring need,” Scanlan said. “We could take a couple of point guards, or we could try to find a point guard who can also be a shooter, and then maybe (add) another shooter.”
Washington turned into one of the season’s pleasant surprises, Scanlan said. A transfer from a California junior college, he grew into his role as a sparkplug off the bench.
“It would be kind of selfish of me thinking I should start, since we had some seniors and some guys who had been here for two or three years,” said Washington, who averaged 8.3 points in 22 minutes a game. “It doesn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t capable of starting, but (it requires) a different type of energy.”
After a 2-3 start, ENMU put together an eight-game winning streak and stayed consistent through most of the regular season.
A 19-point loss at home to Texas A&M-Kingsville in mid-February put the division title in jeopardy, but the Hounds nailed it down with road wins against Angelo State and Abilene Christian.
Washington said the loss to Kingsville was symptomatic of a late-season downturn.
“It was hard to take; it kind of humbled us,” he said of the Kingsville loss. “(But) we’d been playing kind of stagnant (late in the season). Even in the games we won, we were playing below our capability.”
Still, at 10-2 in the South, Scanlan said the Hounds probably exceeded expectations.
“As balanced as our (division) was, I’m surprised anybody could go 10-2,” he said. “I think everybody was so close. It really was a major accomplishment.”
Hounds season at a glance
Lone Star Conference South: 10-2 (1st)
Scoring average: 73.9
Opponents’ average: 69.6
Scoring: Jamaal Hunnicutt 12.6, Kennis Green 12.5, Garland Coleman 11.2, Travazz Buckley 10.9.
Rebounding: Hunnicutt 8.8, Buckley 6.8.
Assists: Brent Cooper 3.0, Hunnicutt 3.0.